ContentsIntroduction by Tom Secker 4Conclusions, CIA Clandestine Services History, Record of Paramilitary ActionAgainst the Castro Government of Cuba, 5th May 1961 10National Security Action Memos 55, 56 and 57, 28th June 1961 14Memorandum for the Director of Central Intelligence, re: Meeting with theAttorney General of the United States concerning Cuba, Richard Helms, 19thJanuary 1962 21Possible Actions to Provoke, Harass or Disrupt Cuba, Brigadier General EdLansdale, 2nd February 1962 24Memorandum for the Chief of Operations, Cuba Project, and attached Cover andDeception Plans, 19th February 1962 28Program Review, Cuba Project by Brigadier General Ed Lansdale, 20th February1962 38Report by the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of StaffRepresentative on the Carribean Survey Group to the Joint Chiefs of Staff onCuba Project, 9th March 1962 64Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense re: Justificationfor Military Intervention in Cuba, 13th March 1962 77
Memorandum for the record re: Meeting with the President, Ed Lansdale, 16thMarch 1962 91Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense re: Cuba, 10th 96April 1962
IntroductionThis collection of nearly 100 pages of declassified papers reveals the historysurrounding the notorious Operation Northwoods. The Northwoods plancalled for US military and intelligence agents to carry out a series of false flagattacks, including terrorist attacks in US cities. The events would be blamedon Cuba as an excuse for a military intervention. Though most aspects of theplan were never carried out, the history of how and why the operation wasput together is fascinating and highly significant.In April 1961 an army of Cuban refugees invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.They were armed, trained and equipped by the CIA, in an attempted coupd’etat against Fidel Castro. ‘The Beard’ had come to power in 1959, butrelations between the US and Cuba quickly fell apart. A fuller account of theBay of Pigs operation is the subject of a forthcoming e-book in this series.Most importantly for the story told in this book, the invasion failed. The proxyarmy of refugees were either killed or captured. Out of this failure cameOperation Mongoose – a much larger covert operation aimed at destabilisingthe Castro government before attempting to overthrow it. Northwoods wasone particular twist in the history of Operation Mongoose, itself only onechapter in the history of US relations with Cuba during this period.What these documents show is where Northwoods came from, bothhistorically and operationally. They explain not only the Northwoods planitself but also the psychological motivation and modus operandi of covertfalse flag attacks. Taking the documents in turn:Conclusions, CIA Clandestine Services History, Record of Paramilitary ActionAgainst the Castro Government of Cuba, 5th May 1961 - source:http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC_0001459144/DOC_0001459144.pdfThis historical review of the failed Bay of Pigs operation was written by MarineCorps Colonel Jack Hawkins, who was seconded to the CIA in 1960 to helprun the operation. The full report details the operation itself, the decision-making process that led up to it, and the reasons why it failed. Theconclusions presented here provided the rationale for the followup Mongooseoperation.Hawkins reasoned that ‘the Government and the people of the United Statesare not yet psychologically conditioned to participate in the cold war withresort to the harsh, rigorous and often dangerous and painful measures whichmust be taken in order to win… the resort to war-like measure in anysituation short of all-out war is repugnant to the American mentality. In orderto win the cold war, this inhibition must be overcome.’
In other words, the repugnance felt by the American public when they foundout about the dirty tricks employed in the Bay of Pigs invasion were seen asan obstacle to the CIA continuing to carry out such operations.Hawkins also noted that the CIA were poorly equipped for the task of carryingout medium-scale covert operations, and suggested that responsibility forsuch operations be turned over to the Department for Defense. Heemphasised that covert action alone would not be sufficient to overthrow theCastro regime, indeed, that nothing short of ‘overt application of elements ofUnited State military power’ would do the job.Both of these issues – the turning over of responsibility for covert action tothe Pentagon, and the requirement of using military power to overthrowCastro, were crucial in leading to the Northwoods plan.National Security Action Memos 55, 56 and 57, 28th June 1961 – source:http://www.jfklibrary.org/ (images)http://www.ratical.org/ratville/JFK/USO/appE.html (text)These National Security Action Memos came only weeks after the Hawkinsreport, and followed up on his recommendations. The third memo inparticular redefined Responsibility for Paramilitary Operations, saying that,‘Any large paramilitary operation wholly or partly covert which requiressignificant numbers of military trained personnel, amounts to militaryequipment which exceed normal CIA-controlled stocks and/or militaryexperience of a kind and level peculiar to the Armed services is properly theprimary responsibility of the Department of Defense with the CIA in asupporting role.’After more than a decade of the CIA having primary responsibility for covertparamilitary operations, this memo effectively ordered that the Pentagon takeover the role. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco Kennedy had publicly takenresponsibility but privately resented the CIA for what he saw as theirdeceiving him. Kennedy fired Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell and Charles Cabelland issued NSAM 57 in a political attack on the Agency, the like of which hasnot been seen before or since. There are of course those who believe thiswas one of the primary motives for Kennedy’s assassination a couple of yearslater.Memorandum for the Director of Central Intelligence, re: Meeting with theAttorney General of the United States concerning Cuba, Richard Helms, 19thJanuary 1962 – source:http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/620119%20Meeting%20with%20the%20Attorney%20Gen..pdf
This memo details a meeting between the Attorney General Robert Kennedyand several men from the CIA and US military. Kennedy explained how afterthe Bay of Pigs failure a policy of ‘laying low’ was implemented for a timeregarding Cuba. However, in the autumn of 1961, Brigadier General EdLansdale had been tasked with surveying the issue and determining whatcould be done. Discussions at the meeting outlined how Lansdale hadconcluded that overthrowing Castro was possible, and that a series ofsmaller-scale covert actions should be undertaken to keep the Cubangovernment busy so it could not ‘meddle’ in Latin America. Kennedy gave hisassent to the proposals, though overt military intervention was not discussed.Possible Actions to Provoke, Harass or Disrupt Cuba, Brigadier General EdLansdale, 2nd February 1962 – source:http://www.lettersofnote.com/2011/08/possible-actions-to-provoke-harrass-or.htmlLess than two weeks after that meeting, Lansdale drew up a detailed set ofcovert plans designed to ‘Provoke, Harass or Disrupt Cuba’. They are worthconsidering in some detail.Several involved sabotage, an age-old method of covert agents. Everythingfrom cars to communications facilities were targeted. Several involvedpsychological warfare, aimed at reducing support for Castro, or inducingdefectors and refugees. One of the most famous plans, codenamed DirtyTrick, was based around the Mercury flight of John Glenn, the first Americanto orbit the earth. The plan said that if anything went wrong with the flight,that Cuba would be blamed using manufactured evidence.The 10th plan, Operation Bingo, was the prototype for what would becomethe Northwoods plan. It suggested that the US government, ‘create anincident which has the appearance of an attack on U.S. facilities (GMO) inCuba, thus providing an excuse for use of U.S. military might to overthrowthe current government of Cuba.’ Over the following weeks, this plan wouldbe refined and expanded.Memorandum for the Chief of Operations, Cuba Project, and attached Coverand Deception Plans, 19th February 1962 – source:http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/620219%20Memo%20for%20the%20Chief%20of%20Ops..pdfThis cover and deception plan details several ideas for military exercises inthe Caribbean that would have a psychological warfare effect on both Cubancitizens and the Castro government. These ideas would eventually find theirway into the Northwoods documents, and the notion of military/security drillsand exercises being used as elements in black operations has gained a lot ofattention and currency in recent years.
The plan states that the exercises should be used to (1) ‘create the requiredpsychological build-up of the desired atmosphere in Cuba’, i.e. convinceCastro and his supporters that the US were really planning to invade, and toscare the Cuban general public as a means of destabilising the government;(2) ‘gain the necessary favourable preposition US military posture to countera possible hostile Cuban reaction’, i.e. have forces in strategically usefulpositions should Castro be so perturbed by the exercises that he order anattack; and (3) ‘then lure or provoke Castro, or an uncontrollable subordinate,into an overt hostile reaction against the United States; a reaction whichwould in turn create the justification for the US to not only retaliate butdestroy Castro’, i.e. fool Castro into a hostile act that the US could then useas an excuse to attack Cuba.Program Review, Cuba Project by Brigadier General Ed Lansdale, 20thFebruary 1962Overall review of the Cuba Project (Operation Mongoose) by Lansdale, writtenjust after the cover and deception plan. Among these 26 pages is an outlinefor how to sponsor a guerrilla force and overthrow a government – a planthat might even have worked in Cuba had the Soviets not intervened andcaused the Missile Crisis.The review makes it clear that the debate about whether or not to use overtUS military force was still raging. Lansdale asked, ‘if conditions and assetspermitting a revolt are achieved in Cuba, and if U.S. help is required tosustain this condition, will the U.S. respond promptly with military force to aidthe Cuban revolt?’Report by the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of StaffRepresentative on the Carribean Survey Group to the Joint Chiefs of Staff onCuba Project, 9th March 1962 – source:http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?absPageId=159978This report contains an early draft of the memo (below) that was sent toSecretary of Defense Robert McNamara a few days later. The reportsummarises the military exercise tactic outlined in the cover and deceptionreport, saying, ‘Harassment plus deceptive actions to convince the Cubans ofimminent invasion would be emphasised. Our military posture throughoutexecution of the plan will allow a rapid change from exercise to intervention ifCuban response justifies.The report also notes in Enclosure B that ‘US unilateral military intervention inCuba can be undertaken in the event that the Cuban regime commits hostile
acts against US forces or property which would serve as an incident on whichto base overt intervention.In other words, in handing over the responsibility for covert action againstCuba from the CIA to the Pentagon, in the context of the belief that only full-scale military intervention could topple Castro, Kennedy had presented theJoint Chiefs with something of a paradox. They attempted to resolve thatparadox by covertly provoking the Cubans into ‘hostile acts’, which wouldthen serve as a pretext for war against Castro.Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense re:Justification for Military Intervention in Cuba, 13th March 1962 – source:http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20010430/doc1.pdfThe most widely-known Northwoods document, sent from the Joint Chiefs ofStaff to the Secretary of Defense. It outlines a series of pretexts that the UScould use as their excuse for overt military intervention in Cuba. Thisincluded faking an attack on Guantanamo bay, the false-flag bombing of anairliner, mock victims and acts of real terrorism in US cities, all of which wouldultimately be blamed on Cuba.Memorandum for the record re: Meeting with the President, Ed Lansdale, 16thMarch 1962 – source:http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?absPageId=49622Three days after McNamara had been sent the Northwoods memo, a meetingtook place between Kennedy, McNamara, chairman of the Joint Chiefs LymanLemnitzer, Ed Lansdale and others. Lemnitzer brought up the question ofpretexts for war but clearly Kennedy was not impressed with the Northwoodsplan. The memo details how, ‘General Lemnitzer commented that the militaryhad contingency plans for US intervention. Also it had plans for creatingplausible pretexts to use force, with the pretext either attacks on US aircraftor a Cuban action in Latin America for which we could retaliate. The Presidentsaid bluntly that we were not discussing the use of military force, that GeneralLemnitzer might find the U.S so engaged in Berlin or elsewhere that hecouldnt use the contemplated 4 divisions in Cuba.’Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense re: Cuba, 10thApril 1962 – source:http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?absPageId=159933After the apparent rejection of the Northwoods plan for a pretext for war, theJoint Chiefs became more hawkish in their assessments. This memo toMcNamara outlines their view that, ‘the Cuban problem must be solved in the
near future,’ and that, ‘military intervention by the United States will berequired.’The memo concludes that, ‘the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that anational policy of early military intervention in Cuba be adopted by the UnitedStates. They also recommend that such intervention under as soon aspossible.’The US military chiefs saying to their political masters that they should carryout terrorist attacks to justify a war was a radical step. The Northwoods planis among the most explicit ever declassified. This collection of documents,taken together and in context, show that the radical step was motivated byabject paranoia about the influence of Castro on Latin America. The militarycould not abide a Communist government just off the coast of Florida. Butdue to the failure at the Bay of Pigs a pre-emptive strike was consideredimpossible. Going back to Hawkins’ original assessment, the US governmentand public weren’t ready for an aggressive strike against a tiny, non-threatening neighbour, no matter their ideology. In order to bridge the gapand psychologically condition the public to accept such a war of aggression,deception and ultimately false flag tactics were seen as required.Though this set of circumstances might seem unique, consider the build-up tothe war in Iraq in late 2002 and early 2003. Fake defectors, falseintelligence, and blaming Iraq for anything and everything that washappening in the world were used to create a groundswell of public opinion infavour of war. Or consider 9/11, an event many believe to be the largest-scale false flag terrorist attack of all time, exploited and used as a pretext forongoing and expanding wars in the Middle East.
NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO. 55TO: The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff SUBJECT: elations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the R President in Cold War Operations I wish to inform the Joint Chiefs of Staff as follows with regard to my views of their relations to me in Cold War Operations: a. I regard the Joint Chiefs of Staff as my principal military advisor responsible both for initiating advice to me and for res- ponding to requests for advice. I expect their advice to come to me direct and unfiltered. b. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have a responsibility for the defense of the nation in the Cold War similar to that which they have in con- ventional hostilities. They should know the military and paramilitary forces and resources available to the Department of Defense, verify their readiness, report on their accuracy, and make appropriate recommen- dations for their expansion and improvement. I look to the Chiefs to contribute dynamic and imaginative leadership in contributing to the success of the military and paramilitary aspects of Cold War programs. c. I expect the Joint Chiefs of Staff to present the military view- point in governmental councils in such a way as to assure that the military factors are clearly understood before decisions are reached. When only the Chairman or a single Chief is present, that officer must represent the Chiefs as a body, taking such preliminary and subsequent actions as may be necessary to assure that he does in fact represent the corporate judgement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. -2- d. While I look to the Chiefs to represent the military factor with- out reserve or hesitation, I regard them to be more than military men and expect their help in fitting military requirements into the over-all context of any situation, recognizing that the most difficult problem in Government is to combine all assets in a unified, effective pattern. [signature of John Kennedy] cc: ecretary of Defense S General Taylor
NSAM No. 56 THE WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON June 28, 1961 NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO. 56 TO: The Secretary of Defense SUBJECT: Evaluation of Paramilitary Requirements The President has approved the following paragraph: "It is important that we anticipate now our possible future requirements in the field of unconventional warfare and paramilitary operations. A first step would be to inventory the paramilitary assests we have in the United States Armed Forces, consider various areas in the world where the implementation of our policy may require indigenous para- military forces, and thus arrive at a determination of the goals which we should set in this field. Having determined the assets and the possible requirements, it would then be- come a matter of developing a plan to meet the deficit." The President requests that the Secretary of Defense, in coordina- tion with the Department of State and the CIA, make such an estimate of requirements and recommend ways and means to meet these requirements. McGeorge Bundy cc: ecretary of State S Director, CIA General Maxwell D. Taylor C-O-P-Y
NSAM No. 57 COPY June 28, 1961 NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO. 57 TO: The Secretary of State The Secretary of Defense The Director, CIA The President has approved the attached recommendation: The Special Group (5412 Committee) will perform the functions assigned in the recommendation to the Strategic Resources Group. McGeorge Bundy cc: General Maxwell D. Taylor cc: rs. Lincoln M Mr. Smith Mr. McG. Bundy file COPY
COPY RESPONSIBILITY FOR PARAMILITARY OPERATIONS 1. For the purpose of this study, a paramilitary operation is considered to be one which by its tactics and its requirements inmilitary-type personnel, equipment and training approximates a con-ventional military operation. It may be undertaken in support of anexisting government friendly to the U.S. or in support of a rebel groupseeking to overthrow a government hostile to us. The U.S. may renderassistance to such operations overtly, covertly or by a combination ofboth methods. In size these operations may vary from the infiltrationof a squad of guerillas to a military operation such as the Cuban invasion.The small operations will often fall completely within the normal capa-bility of one agency; the large ones may affect State, Defense, CIA, USIAand possibly other departments and agencies. 2. In order to conduct paramilitary operations with maximum effec-tiveness and flexibility within the context of the Cold War, it is recommendedthat current directives and procedures be modified to effect the following: a. Any proposed paramilitary operation in the concept state will be presented to the Strategic Resources Group for initial con- sidertation and for approval as necessary by the President. There- after, the SRG will assign primary responsibility for planning, for interdepartment coordination and for execution to the Task Force, department or individual best qualified to carry forward the operation to success, and will indicate supporting responsibilities. Under this principle, the Department of Defense will normally receive responsibility for overt paramilitary operations. Where such an operation is to be wholly covert or disavowable, it may be assigned to CIA, provided that it is within the normal capabilities of the agency. Any large paramilitary operation wholly or partly covert which requires significant numbers of military trained personnel, amounts to military equipment which exceed normal CIA-controlled stocks and/or military experience of a kind and level peculiar to the Armed services is properly the primary responsibility of the Department of Defense with the CIA in a supporting role.